American gambling news indicate that the days of Florida’s “strip mall casinos” – an umbrella term for about a 1,000 internet cafes and gambling arcades – are numbered, after the State Senate voted 36-4 in favor of their closure.
The lawmakers’ ire was directed chiefly at internet cafes, accusing them of running an illicit and unlicensed gambling business by exploiting legal loopholes.
“There is nothing in this bill that is going to close down legitimate businesses. This is about closing down unscrupulous operators who have found loopholes in the statutes,” claimed Sen. John Thrasher (R) who submitted the bill.
Of course most of those people who wish to gamble will find the ways to do so, with options ranging from shabby backroom gambling dens to offshore mobile casinos. This, however, may not be the case for the state’s elderly citizens, who may be both less mobile and less tech savvy than the average population.
They have been frequenting small-bet senior arcades, which are now also being affected. Despite avoiding much criticism over the past years, these arcades, as well as the so-called “maquinitas” (essentially a few computers installed at small shops or gas stations) must also cease their activities in the current form.
Critics of the new law point out that small-scale gambling has been part of the social routine for many of the elderly living in Florida, and taking it away will require an abrupt change in their lifestyles. Moreover, arcade owners insist that their video games are in fact games of skill, not games of chance, since they require pushing a “stop” button for the symbols to cease spinning.
This argument was rejected by the politicians.
Commenting on the outcome the president of the Florida Arcade Association, Gail Fontaine, expressed their frustration. “It’s highly disappointing to see the Legislature punish our seniors for the misdeeds of Internet cafe operators. We are not gambling establishments. We are nothing more than social clubs that provide fun and stimulating games to keep our patrons active and happy,” said Fontaine.
She also added that “seniors and children are being punished despite following the rules and providing a safe place for entertainment.”
These matters are not governed by federal level American gambling laws and states are free to regulate or prohibit most types of gambling.